Napoleon was one of the most important figures in European history. As one of the greatest military leaders, Napoleon did many things to modernize the European nations he ruled.
In 1769, Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Ajaccio, Corsica. His middle class family was of Italian descent. After completing his education, Napoleon went to France to become a solider.
In Napoleon’s first battle as leader of an army, he became famous. By pointing artillery at the British, Napoleon drove them out of Toulon. The Directory then sent him to Italy to attack an army of Austrians. After this victory, Napoleon gained more fame and was known as a hero.
Along with his brother and soldiers, Napoleon carried out a Coup D’etat. Coup D’etat is an illegal take over of the government by the military. Napoleon then gained the title First Council, or dictator of France.
During his dictatorship, Napoleon developed a system of laws called the Napoleonic Code. Under these laws, all citizens were considered equal, were granted freedom of religion, and were ensured jobs according to their ability. The laws also helped to establish the bank of France. Paper money was provided for the first time, and citizens were required to pay taxes. Napoleon also enforced laws of the revolution. Aside from the development of the Napoleonic Code, Napoleon developed a Lycees’. This was the beginning of the public school system.
In 1805, Napoleon was involved in a series of wars. The first was the Battle of Trafalgar. In this war, Napoleon was defeated by the British navy. This defeat ensured Britain’s control of the seas. Next was the Battle of Austerluz. Napoleon defeated an Austrian Army three times the size of his. This was considered his masterpiece victory.
After these two battles, Napoleon crowned himself emperor of the First Empire of France. It was then that he adopted the name Napoleon I. As the emperor, Napoleon developed the Continental System. This system forced all countries controlled by France to close their ports and forbade trade with England. This was done because England was Napoleon’s mortal enemy.
In 1808, Napoleon began his conquest of Spain. The Guerilla war led to an uprising by the entire population. French troops, were raided and killed by the Spanish. The French retaliated the attack with executions.
Two years later in 1810, Nationalism became an issue in Germany. Small German states began two rise against the French. They had a deep sense of pride in their culture, and did not want Napoleon to destroy it.
After battling with Britain, Spain, and Germany, Napoleon invaded Russia. The purpose of this invasion was to enforce the Continental System. In 1812, a Russian winter and the Russian strategy of Scorched Earth defeated Napoleon and his army of 500,000 men. This was Napoleon’s worst defeat. It has been said, “it was the beginning of the end.”
This defeat forced Napoleon to give up his crown and go into exile to Elba. Louie XVIII was brought back to France to restore the Monarchy. In 1815, Napoleon returned from his exile. His return was known as Hundred Days.
During his second reign, two armies attacked France simultaneously. Napoleon attacked the Duke of Wellington’s British troops first. This was known as the Battle of Waterloo, the most decisive battle in history.
On June 15, 1815, Napoleon was defeated by the British. He then gave up his throne for the last time. He again went into exile, only this time he went to St. Helena. He remained there until 1821 when he died of stomach cancer.
The legacy of Napoleon is an important part of history. He gave birth to European Nationalism and wrote the basis of today’s French laws. As you can see, Napoleon truly was a hero to France.